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Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 184
Alright, I wanted to open this up to discussion. Mainly, I'm hoping to gather up some good and intriguing questions for the December topic.

So far, we've got the basic definition:
"A branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge."

We might want to drill this down and attempt to become quite a bit more specific. I know we have a tendency to run off on tangents, so the more specific we make this, the more likely it is that the tangents will at least stay in the ballpark.
A former member
Post #: 8
The word 'knowledge' is problematic. I don't know how widespread the following supposition is, but for the longest time I have thought of knowledge in this way:

knowledge<...............belief....­............opinion.................>­ignorance

In ancient Greek there were four different terms for knowledge: 'techne' (know-how), which in Latin has been traditionally translated as 'ars' (from which 'art' derives); 'episteme' (understanding), which in Latin has been traditionally translated as 'scientia' (from which 'science' derives); and finally, 'doxa'/'dogma' (common opinion). Then as now, everyone engages their cultural milieu in terms of common opinion (the uses of power and popular culture), especially in special-interest groups (I think we are justified in calling religions and their denominations in this way), and we all accept that know-how is what builds civilizations (specially trained individuals are certified to put up our buildings, bridges, and design and construct our airplanes, etc.). So, neither common opinion nor know-how are particularly problematic as kinds of knowledge. The middle concept, understanding (episteme), is where most of the intellectual action has always taken place: how does one "stand under" or "see under" or "see into" an idea, as opposed to social behavior or the design of a toilet?

So, in principle, epistemology studies knowledge in general, which may include the formation of ordinary opinion, 'official' opinion, principles of technology, and, the star attraction by far, and science (scientific knowledge).
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 381
There are at least three main meanings to the word "knowledge":

1) To know how to do something, such as "I know English," "You know carpentry."
2) To be familiar with someone or something, as in "I know Mary," "We know Dallas."
3) To know a fact, to know that something is the case, as in "She knows that Austin is the Texas state capital""He knows that water is H2O" " I know that today is Monday," etc,.

And I would add a fourth:

4) Knowledge by identity, which arguably could be thought of as simply a more extreme case of knowledge by experience, which is 2) and also possibly 1). Not everyone will agree to this one, so we can set it aside for now.

The fact that the English 'to know' has these multiple meanings is reflected in the fact that many other languages have more than one word for the English 'to know', with one word usually corresponding to 'to know a fact' and the other word meaning 'to be familiar with someone or something,' and sometimes a third word meaning 'to know how to do something.'

It seems that these kinds of knowledge can sometimes overlap or blur into each other. For instance, if I know Dallas, it means that I'm familiar with Dallas, which is 2), but being familiar with it would have to include knowing how to do things, like knowing how to find my way around the city, give directions, describe and predict things about Dallas, etc., and it would also have to include knowing facts about Dallas. So there isn't always a very clear demarcation between these three kinds of knowledge, but it's probably useful to some extent.

So I would say that epistemology is mainly concerned with 3) (to the extent that 3) is a useful category), in other words, with certain kinds of belief that something or other is the case, although it may touch on the other two also.

I think that 1) maps pretty well onto what Eduardo described as techne and that 3) maps more or less onto what he described as episteme. Hey, maybe that's where the word epistemology comes from! : )

So what kind of belief is knowledge? Traditionally it's been defined as "justified true belief," but the so-called Gettier cases have cast some doubt on that definition. Knowledge seems to be yet another fuzzy concept that defies strict definition.
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 185
The fun part is that if we are going to talk about knowledge at all, we need to make sure that we're at least talking about the same thing. The thing is, I'm a bit of a stickler for this sort of thing. In my opinion, if I can't say I articulate what I mean when I say "know" then I can't honestly say that I know anything.

That gives us at least one good question to raise, which is "what is knowledge?"

As far as the idea being that beliefs grow up to be knowledge, I'm not terribly convinced of this. The things which I believe, I believe because I am compelled to do so. I could not chose to believe another way. I could be exposed to facts, IE: gain knowledge, which might change my beliefs... and my beliefs do act as a bit of a lens through which I see and even experience all incoming data, and thus colors my knowledge a bit. For me, the difference between belief and knowledge is similar to the difference between theory and data.

In any case, this brings up other interesting questions, such as:
Where does knowledge come from?
How do we obtain it?
Are there better or worse ways of doing so?
Does this vary by situation?
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 382
The fun part is that if we are going to talk about knowledge at all, we need to make sure that we're at least talking about the same thing. The thing is, I'm a bit of a stickler for this sort of thing. In my opinion, if I can't say I articulate what I mean when I say "know" then I can't honestly say that I know anything.

So I would say that we can articulate what we mean clearly enough for the needs of a given context even if the concept we're articulating remains elusive in some ways. As examples, consider the concept "truth," which we all know well enough for most everyday situations, but which is puzzling when we really try to come up with a precise, comprehensive definition and understanding. I know that I'm conscious, but it's really hard to say precisely what consciousness is. Also, I know that I perform actions, but "action" is a really hard concept to precisely understand, and understanding exactly how I perform actions is even harder. So even if a concept is fuzzy, or a 'family resemblance' cluster-type of concept, doesn't mean we cannot know or say with confidence anything about it.

I would say that nearly any propositional knowledge (any case of knowing that x is true ) would be a belief. The other kinds of knowledge ( knowing how, familiarity, identity ) would not have to entail belief, although it seems that every type of knowledge, at least for humans, seems to occur closely embedded within all other kinds of knowledge ( qualia may be one exception, among others). So I don't see belief as being a separate category from propositional knowledge. Possibly all propositional knowledge is belief, although not all belief is knowledge. "I know that I'm conscious" is a belief, even though what warrants the belief isn't other beliefs but experience. But would my knowing that 1=1 also be a belief? That strains the concept of belief, so I'm not sure if there aren't some items of knowledge that are so self-evident seeming that they might be borderline belief cases.

As a definition of propositional knowledge, what about something provisionally like this: A warranted assertion that a proposition p is true, warranted meaning as fully warranted as the given context requires? Another possible one: Warranted truth-tracking beliefs. What's needed to warrant something as knowledge may vary somewhat, so warrants can be stronger or weaker, depending on the context. Think of moral knowledge, historical knowledge, etc,; what's required to warrant these as knowledge would be very different from what's required by economics, which would be different from physics which would be different from math and logic, and so on. So I would say that what differentiates nearly all knowledge from belief that's not knowledge is more a matter of degree than of kind, although some items, such as 1=1, seem so overwhelmingly warranted as to appear self-evident. Charles S. Peirce came up with fallibilism, which is about the idea that no knowledge is absolutely infallible, which is kind of in line with what I'm saying, that knowledge and truth are goals that an ideal consensus of rational scientific inquiry is continually converging upon as an an aspiration but which may never be reached.

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